Dream It/Do It: Education


Six ways to expand your child’s horizons, on two very different budgets.

by Tracy Chait

August 4, 2009


Now that edutainment DVDs have been ruled more Daily News than New Yorker, it’s time to reevaluate how we teach wee ones to turn on their noggins – to the notes of Chopin, perhaps, or a Shakespearean sonnet.- Tracy Chait

For Babies:

Sign Language

Researchers say baby gesturing can build vocabulary, boost language learning and ease babies’ frustration when attempting to communicate. Even Robert De Niro tried it as uber-involved-grampa in Meet the Fockers.

The Dream

Find local classes through either Sign2Me, the site of baby sign expert Joseph Garcia, or BabySigns. Both programs charge about $150-200 per six-week session for parent-child classes, less for workshops exclusively for parents.

The Reality

Try using Michigan State’s American Sign Language Browser, which plays Quicktime video of popular signs so you can teach your baby at home (free). Or, say yes – a fist-like handshape you shake up and down – to flashcards, like these sign language flashcards from mocobabies, $25 for a set of 35.


For decades, overeager parents have sung (hummed?) the praises of classical music as a means of early education, starting in the womb. Because music that makes you smart can’t have catchy lyrics.

The Dream

There’s Music Together, Kindermusik, Gymboree Music Classes and many locally-offered Suzuki method classes, all of which claim to increase literacy, language, math and reasoning skills. Prices vary, but you can expect to pay $30-40 per session – more for a private music instructor, less if you pre-pay for multiple classes.

The Reality

There are a gazillion classical music CDs specifically for babies and mothers-to-be, including the Mozart Series (CDs start at $6.98) and the Mozart for Mothers-to-Be, Bach for Babies and Beethoven for Babies trio of recordings done by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Orchestra ($6.99 each). Playing music and singing together is interactive learning and a means to develop your baby’s ear. And what about church services? There’s usually a choir, classical music and it happens at the same time and place every week. Babies can bounce and sway in pews and no one seems to mind if they cry out occasionally. Free, unless you feel guilty when the collection plate comes around.

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